Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A career in the arts...

The woman half of R & R is an old friend of Momma D's going back to their OCAD days. R's daughter, P is deciding between attending Concordia or OCAD for a fine arts degree. Thinking about this and the tendency for kids to ape the careers of modeled by their parents (not necessarily restricted to the arts - lawyers beget lawyers, etc.) and also how artistic/creative talent is as much nurtured as natured, the Dotytron and I got into a big discussion about parenting.

I'm going to come right out and say it - I absolutely, 100% DO NOT want my child to have a career in the arts (traditional, fine arts.) No being a musician, a painter, a writer, none of that, please. My concern is that because the Dotytron comes from a self-identified "musical family" and because the Dotytron himself is so talented musically, that already people are looking for those cues in the Big Yam. I can't tell you the number of times I've heard people say "Oh! Look at him playing his tambourine/dancing/wanting to touch the guitar - he's going to a musician just like his dad/nana/poppa/auntie." They're looking for those markers and commenting on them and the conversation with the Dotytron started with me saying that we have to be very conscious of the insidiousness of that kind of representational language and attempt to balance it by commenting more frequently and strongly on other aspects/elements, that we ourselves are admittedly weaker in. In the same way that gender constructions start in utero, with little girl babies being told how pretty, cute, precious they are, rather than how strong, creative, and adventurous, the same is done from a very young age when people have preconceived notions of what a child can be.

This isn't to denigrate a career in the arts. Ehmdo has two successful classically creative careers and is spectacularly talented at both. I'm also recognizing that you can be creative in many, many, many fields - and that a child who is positioned to excel will by necessity draw on their creative skills in many non-classically creative fields - as lawyers, engineers, surgeons, investment bankers, etc.

My main point is that the allure of a highly romanticized, bohemian, fine arts-based life style is never as compelling as during the critical point in a kid's life when they have to apply themselves at less "fun" and "cool" disciplines in order to make sure that doors remain open in the future - stuff like physics and calculus. NO ONE thinks those things are cool! And yet, given our respective weaknesses in the hard sciences and maths, I think it's really important that we strive to overcome our lack of facility in those areas and make those subject areas as fun and engaging as possible. Physics is totally fun and engaging! I'm sure that now, I'd probably think the same thing of calculus and algebra.

The Dotytron was countering that of course we would stress excellence in general - the same way that we would expect excellence in athletics, music, math, etc. I disagree though - I could care less if my kid comes home with a bad grade in gym. If my kid comes home with a bad grade in one of the core subjects, there will be heck to pay, mark my words.

The point of the matter is that I feel like people have a tendency to unconsciously map out a child's future and narrow the field of possibilities by projecting attributes and characteristics pretty much from birth. You really have to work hard to counteract those enculturating forces.

The other point of the matter is that if my kid does choose that career, I want them to do it AFTER getting a University degree and AFTER having interviewed at least 10 people working in the field that they want to enter, so that they get an idea of the kinds of trials, tribulations, and (probable) poverty that accompany the lifestyle.

Guh. I'm such a hard a** parent. Just call me the dream killah.


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